tv Tavis Smiley WHUT September 7, 2012 7:00pm-7:30pm EDT
tavis smiley. tonight, a conversation with a noted author, benjamin barber. restoring the american economy and the continuing conversation about austerity. this weekend in los angeles, dr. baraber be at the independence day, hoping to solve our shared problems. we are glad you could join us for our conversation with dr. benjamin barber, coming up right now. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminating hunger and we have work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can
stamp hunger out. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: all right, please welcome david barber to the program, the noted author and furious at the center for the philanthropy and civil society at the university of new york. he is also the founder of interdependent state. it celebrates its 10th anniversary in l.a., and he joins us from new york. it is good to have you on the program. >> thank you, tavis. good to be here. tavis: the democrats in
charlotte and republicans in tampa, where u.s. public policy is concerned, talk to me about what you have heard over these past two weeks and why not of it sounds to me like we are going to be working together over the next few months. >> well, i am afraid last week and particularly even this week, there is a lot about what america is going to do, but the reality is, we live in a world that it is not going to be the american century or the chinese century. it will be the global century altogether. we live in a world where the challenges are increasingly cross border and interdependent. we did not hear that last week. i am here to serve families. there will not be any families in 50 years if we do not do something about global warming and the rising seas.
i think the paul ryan speechas devoted to foreign policy. they had condi rice, and understandably, in a domestic campaign, focusing on domestic issues, we had two great parties that still act like we are in the 19th century and that they are only concerned about what happens in america. it is a great country and maybe the best country in the world, but every country needs every other country today to solve the kinds of problems we have with terrorism and global warming, with global technology is, with pandemic, with terrorism, and george bush went to take on iraq and afghanistan. al qaeda is nothing more than an interdependent ngo of a very
pernicious kind. tavis: interdependence, we heard some of this at the rnc, and we have heard some of that at the democratic convention this week, but speak to me about this notion, this gospel of american exceptionalism that some americans are still preaching. >> tavis, that is such an important question. politicians have to do it. when president obama was elected, he had made a speech where he talked about america is part of the world, and he went to istanbul and cairo in his first year and talked about independence and the need to work together, and he was punished by the media and his own party, and the result is he talks mainly about america, we are number one, god bless america, and i do one god to bless america, but i want them
to bless the whole world. the focus on the american exhibition where, first of all, every nation thinks it is exceptional. in switzerland, they talk about it, and in france, they talk about it that the french think similarly. and this does not mean that we are exceptional in the sense that we can solve problems by ourselves, that we can fix the things the way we did 100 years ago. thinking about immigration, there is nothing we can do. we cannot do that one nation at a time. even if we suddenly had all of the alternative energy and if we got off the petroleum teet and started using geothermal energy,
80% to 85% of the emissions come from other countries. we do these things together in the 21st century, or they do not happen, and we need political leaders bold enough to say that, but we also need citizens to say that and willing to support politicians, because if i went into the white house today, mr. obama, where we had a different one, and we said, "mr. romney, we have got to talk about global and working together," they would say to get back out of here. we have got to say, "usa, usa, usa, we are number one, we can fix things ourselves," and it works that way, but it is disastrous. >> so there are three distinctive groups.
one is a group of elected officials. i am not naïve, and neither are you. i get the need for wanting to chant "usa," and getting upset with president obama for not wearing the flag on his lapel. i do want to talk about citizens, that you have just raised, and i want to talk about the media. let me start with the media because you talked about it first. obama attempted to talk about this notion of working together globally and that we are, in fact, it interdependent. he was scoffed at and marked -- mocked by the media. >> journalism, the print media, the web, broadcast, it is all
about helping to educate americans, helping them to see the world the way it is. i listened to msnbc. i listened to fox. we are listening for most of us to those two, but if you listen to nbc, there is hardly any international news. there is actually a little more on fox because of murdoch and news corp. then there is on msnbc. you realize that there is a whole world out there in somalia, sudan, south africa, china, and we never hear about it. it just does not exist. if they start saying what is happening in china is important, what happens in singapore, it
means something to us. we have got to think about it. most americans have no idea what you are thinking about or talking about, and most politicians take great risks to talk about it. there is a civic responsibility that once upon a time they took on this nature because they take on the conglomerate and corporate world. they are in it to make profits, and because of discussions about difficult and complex things in the greater world, they do not bring listeners and watchers to the television set, so they simply do not do it, and because of that, they have reneged on the fundamental responsibility on what it means to be a journalist and a reporter and a broadcaster. tavis: so what is it then about the citizenry that so craves, you know, what is it that brings
on those chance of "usa, usa"? what is all about that? >> i understand it. we all live, first of all, in a neighborhood, in a community, and of little farm town, a big city, and our sense of allegis and belonging, we see the news, what is happening with the school, what is happening up the street. there was a fire. i understand that. we are like personal and parochial preachers, and the news has to serve that part of oz, and it does that an awful lot in pretty well, but the other part of it is the national part of it, the park that does not simply say, "let's talk about your neighborhood and where you live for a while." now, let's talk about the larger neighborhood of the whole
planet, and the neighborhood has become that. when you try to talk about that, people say you are not a patriot, you are not waiving the american flag, and as you say, every politician stencils into their forehead and american flag, and it is great to be patriotic, but we also want a little picture of the planet into our foreheads as well because we all live on that planet, and that is part of where we are, and if we do not figured out how to live on the planet, the american flag will not be waiving 100 years ago -- from now. tavis: it is clearly going to be the primary issue between now and election day. we've heard two different versions, one from romney-ryan, the other from obama-biden. what, to your ear, is the most
distinctive difference between these two routes? >> let me say, on the one hand, what we heard last week at the republican convention is if the republicans had not been in power for 30 years, and they were asking for the american permission to fix things. they were the ones that created these problems. talking about trickle down vouchers, getting the government out of that, the very things that created the fiscal disaster that we have, and obviously, the democrats know that, and they are trying to point out that it is the policies that are being advertised, particularly by paul ryan. get rid of the unions. all of the policies is exactly how you got into the mess we were in. i would love it if they said
this does not work. here is a third option. we do not have a third option. we have been given the option that started the problem. we need more fiscal stimulus. we need to strengthen the public sector. this is so they do not act irresponsibly. and others say this is just more government. that is the problem we have. but here is what both parties in this from my point of view. they missed that the american economy will never again be an autonomous economy. both parties are worried about oil prices, the pack -- price of gasoline, and well they should. this may have a lot to do with prices at the pump. if it is $5 in november, i daresay that obama is going to have a very hard time winning, but america has very little to do. this is a global market.
even if we are more independent and produce more oil, the pricing is a result of the big global oil monopolies. we do not control it. the president does not control it. if israel attacks iran, an oil dries up in the middle east for a while, the price of oil will skyrocket, even though it has nothing to do with obama or mr. romney. the same thing if in greece leaves the common market and leaves the euro zone, and there is a lot of chaos. that will affect the american stock market and investment and american imports, and none of those things are anything obama or romney can control by themselves. they can only work with more governments to figure out how to fix those things, but on both sides of the aisle, you see discussions of the economy that sounds like the old soviet union. romney has his five-year plan. tax breaks for the rich.
obama has his. more subsidies and regulation, tax breaks for the middle class, more taxes for the rich, but both of them act as if you can act autonomously in the world, as if this can be done in the absence of an interdependent fiscal policy, and this is a blunt reality. it is not an ideology. it does not serve the democrats or the republicans. the economy is interdependent, and we need policies like that. we do not have them. tavis: it is understandable, given the condition of our economy, that oester be -- both of these conventions in the last two eggs have focused on the issue of joblessness in this country, how to put americans back to work, but i wondered, to what extent you think it is possible, that some catastrophe on the international stage might end up over these next few weeks
between labor day and election day, how they might end up impacting the outcome of this race. everybody is on edge. talking about living in an interdependent world, is it foreseeable that something on the international stage might throw a hiccup, for the lack of a better term? it is all about domestic policy? >> tavis, the sad news is that it does not take a profit to protect a catastrophe. i will predict that there will be several global catastrophes, and they will have consequences none of us can estimate. this is the nature of the world, the nature of human frailty, the risk. it may not be and is really strike against iran. it might be a stolen pakistani nuclear weapon being used by a terrorist group. it might be the outbreak of war in a country of africa that we
are not even thinking about, a new tsunami, a terrible earthquake, who knows what country, maybe even our own, and if we do not start to anticipate that we live in a world of interdependent catastrophes that will cross borders and have in place methods of cooperation in working with others, then not only will these, , but we will suffer mightily from them because we are not prepared to act on them -- not only will these come, we will suffer mightily from them. tavis: i do not see how anybody can be undecided, but, apparently, there are still some undecideds out there, and the presidential debates are coming up starting october 3, i think, one of them betwe mr. romney, and there is one vice presidential, but one of these debates between obama and ronny will be a town hall, and in this town hall, we are told that gallup will assemble undecided voters to make of the audience
on that particular night. to understand how anybody at this point, given the stark nature of the two choices, it can be and decided, and if you are obama, let's start with that, if you are undecided, what do you think the voters need to hear if you are obama? >> half of the country does not read newspapers, and have does not watch television, and have does not vote, and many are still not paying attention. maybe now that the two conventions are over, we will start seeing them pay more attention, and a lot of them do not have a deep sense about the reality of the world we live in an arch starting to think about it. what do you have? you have a businessman, it just the government got, and the president is just another government guy. we have got a businessman who
says we have economic problems, i will fix it, and on the other hand, we have a president who says, "i know how to make the public sector work, so the undecided sector, do we trust the business community? i am not quite sure. i suspect there are a number of not very well informed people out there that are trying to make that judgment, and part of that judgment will be, does obama seymour were the entrust ready, or do we think we need to turn this over to another guy who has done more business? i think that is some of the background. if i were president obama, i think he needs to double down onto the independent middle and try to restore -- you talked about the restoration of america
in the opening. at the top, and he needs to restore the sense that this great republic of ours is a community, a national community. interesting, even ryan talks about this. they were talking about helping our neighbors, the mormon church, the way he helps other people, and i thought for a minute he was going to say, "it takes a village," because he was really speaking about the role of the community. we live in a great national community. government belongs to us, not to them. it is not a cold bureaucracy. it is you and me, working together to do the thi. government is ours. it belongs to us. if you vote for me, i will make our government work for us and for you. >> so for romney, you really do
understand the is. it really fun -- laid out -- he can win virginia, iowa, and number of states, ohio, for example, with those 18 and electoral votes. there are so many paths to victory. this guy basically has to run the table, as it were. he has to run the table, essentially, to beat mr. obama. whereas, if you are romney, how would you appeal to them? >> it is real tough for the republicans. there are a lot of seats. but the electoral map is very tough. we need both florida and ohio. a number of other states, as you say.
i think mitt romney made a poor choice with paul ryan. there was the government is bad side, except when it comes to reproductive rights, where suddenly they know more than women and their doctors, but there are other issues. he is saying to forget about government, but i think he needs to take back this issue that government is just the enemy. we need some balance. i do not think he is going to do it, but i think he means, not just as basic, to move to the center, but move to that playset recognizes that a better balance between a free-market and democratic government is the only way capitalism has ever worked for democracy has ever worked, and anyone who says we just need t state, you get the soviet union, and anyone who says you just need the market, you end up with anarchy, chaos. you end up with competitive factors, the civil war,
capitalism, people getting very rich, and right now, i think that is really the danger for him, and he has got to find a way to make it clear he is not an enemy of democracy or an enemy of the public sector and not an enemy of the government when government is restrained and acting on behalf of the american people. i am not sure he can do that with paul ryan looking over his shoulder every stop that he makes. tavis: as i said, the 10th anniversary of independence day. i have been fortunate to be attending these, and we are fortunate to be hosting it here at this year in the city of angels. what is on tap? >> robert hannity schools, in the old area, where kennedy and paul schrader was shot with him, and he is going to be with us, he survived, but it will be the hope of the american future
right in the hope of los angeles. we are there with a symposium, and our guest will be the mexican foreign minister and our host, you will remember, in mexico city. sunday, we have the pavilion in macarthur park. we have an four-hour concert. all kinds of wonderful musicians. you are going to be speaking there. the founder of a statement will be there. a reverend is there, and the deputy mayor adams is there, and then on monday, we are at city hall. if you go to interdependence movement.org, you can get the information for the whole weekend, but we hope you come. it is an opportunity for people to say we are part of a world,
to be an american, and we want to join the world in solving to gather the problems, and maybe start changing the atmosphere in america so that citizens are willing to applaud politicians who are talking interdependence. tavis: no time like the present to have a conversation about independence. benjamin barber, thank you for coming tonight. that is it for this time. until next time, keep the faith. >> for more information on at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with oscar-winning actor jeremy irons on his latest film project. that is next time. we will see you then. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminating hunger and we have